I wish to respond to the letter to the editor written by Walter Goldeski (“Thinks Too Many of His Tax Dollars Go to Schools,” Sentinel, Aug. 8). He, reacting to having received his preliminary tax bill from East Brunswick, claimed, “As usual, I’m being extorted 68 percent of my total bill to support the school cartel.”
First of all, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a public school teacher, albeit not in East Brunswick, and I live in and pay property taxes in East Brunswick, as do two of my sons.
Mr. Goldeski does not believe that our Blue Ribbon Schools help to keep his property values high. Really? I beg to differ. Even the most cursory examination of the real-estate listings, sales and purchases reveal that the better the schools, the higher the sustained value of the homes. Approximately 40 years ago my husband and I bought our house in large part because of the excellent reputation of East Brunswick’s school system, and now our two sons have made the same fiscally wise decision.
When we purchased our home, we were certain of two truths: Our taxes and our property’s value would increase over time. And, yes, our property-tax bill has grown, but when I do the math, I see that my taxes have increased at approximately the same rate as the value of our property.
Mr. Goldeski goes on to complain that he has not used the school system in 20 years; for us, it’s been about 18 years. However, just because our children have graduated does not mean that we no longer desire to live in a community that values the correlation between a superior educational system and a more desirable standard of living. Furthermore, as a nation, it is generally acknowledged that a free and mandatory public education is an integral part of the foundation of all our culture’s accomplishments.
Mr. Goldeski goes on to attack (our public school teachers’) “gold-plated health care programs” and complains that “now the state will gouge taxpayers to fund teachers’ pensions.” Allow me to educate him on the truth behind these too-often repeated false claims.
It all started with promises. When my fellow teachers and I chose our vocation, we were promised that our salaries would be less, a lot less, than others with comparable college degrees and training. This statement of fact, paired with the high cost of living in New Jersey, dramatically decreased the pool of people willing to pursue a career in education. Mr. Goldeski might remember the late ’60s and early ’70s when the state of New Jersey suffered from such a lack of teachers that many public schools went on a half-day schedule.
Intelligent, informed people realized that this would eventually lead to an economic and societal disaster. In order to avoid this, existing and future educators were promised two benefits to compensate for their modest salaries. The first benefit was health care packages, which we still have, but few people are aware of how our contributions to these programs have increased dramatically as our coverage has decreased. The second benefit was the promise of a modest pension. Every paycheck includes an automatic deduction, which continues to grow, for this benefit. What many in the general public are unaware of is the fact that the state has not made its promised contributions to these funds. To add insult to injury, nearly every week we hear a politician claiming that these funds are not sustainable.
Last week Gov. Chris Christie, who has spent the last seven years vilifying teachers, had to admit that New Jersey schools are among the best in the nation. The studies are complete, and the results are in … New Jersey has the second best schools in the nation. And among many excellent school systems stands East Brunswick among the best of the best.
My advice, Mr. Goldeski, is to sell your house to someone who appreciates these indisputable facts and move where the taxes are lower and you will be happier.
Jo Neal Archer